Skip to content
8.9 °Cforecast >
Mainly Clear
Jobs | Contact | Tip line: 705-673-0123

Leaving on her own terms

It was one of those moments in journalism, when a normally sleepy assignment abruptly turns into a big story.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk answers questions with reporter Darren MacDonald.
It was one of those moments in journalism, when a normally sleepy assignment abruptly turns into a big story. Mayor Marianne Matichuk had covered the usual topics in her State of the City address June 19, and most media types were enjoying coffee as she wrapped up, wondering what their lead was going to be.

Then came the surprise: at times, fighting back tears, Matichuk told everyone at Verdichhio's the answer to the question she's been asked dozens of times: she wasn't running for re-election. The first woman elected mayor of Greater Sudbury was stepping down after one term – and almost four dramatic years.

Even after a bruising term, she's leaving office as one of the city's most popular politicians. A survey conducted in May by Oraclepoll gave Matichuk the support of 38.1 per cent of decided voters – more than twice her nearest rival, Dan Melanson.

The sudden announcement was almost as surprising as her entry into municipal politics in 2010, where she entered the race late as an unknown, and won on a pro-business, low-tax platform. But as is often the case in politics, winning the election was the easy part.

A council term often characterized by bitter exchanges between mayor and council, Matichuk found little support for her agenda among her 12 city council colleagues, who refused to support her agenda.

Minutes after her announcement last week, she sat down with Northern Life to talk about her term, her battles as mayor, and whether she foresees a return politics.

What's next for you?

Well, it's one of those things. I never thought I would ever be the mayor. When I was five years of age, I didn't think I was going to be mayor. It just kind of happened. And I'm not sure … There's a lot of things that will probably happen in the next little while.

Are you hoping for a specific opportunity or job?

Oh, there's always opportunities, right? I'm a health and safety professional. It's a field with lots and lots of opportunities.

You seemed to have developed a good working relationship with the (Liberal government led by Premier Kathleen) Wynne – even on a personal level.

Absolutely. I really respect her. I think she's doing an amazing job. I've found every time I've had a conversation with her, she'll tell you straight out. She'll say, no, we can't do that. Or she'll say you know what? I think we can do it, let me get back to you. I have a lot of respect for that.”

You talked with her when she was still minister of municipal affairs in 2012, didn't you?

I did – it was about recall legislation. And you know, she didn't have to see me. Nobody was talking about recall at the time. I thought it was something we should do in the province, and I still think it is.
Fast forward a couple of years, when all that (Rob Ford) controversy is happening in Toronto, we have everybody talking about recall. So I don't know if it will ever come, but I'm hoping someday it does. It's a privilege to be the mayor, right? And if you do something, you have to be accountable for it.

Any regrets?

Me? No. It's been an honour. An absolute honor.

There's always something you wanted to accomplish that you didn't …

I think it was the store hours. That was mismanaged, unfortunately. As a newbie, I didn't really understand, and relied on advice. And it wasn't the proper advice. It is what it is. I'm not blaming anybody.

In the media scrum, we also asked you about the low points. What about when Ombudsman (André Marin) was fired, that night in February 2013? Wasn't that a bit of a low point?

I was shocked. I was sitting there going, 'What is going on?' It was just wrong. If you get caught speeding, you don't fire the police officer. I understand where people were coming from, and I respect their decision. But I would not go along with that decision at all.

You were elected on a popular platform, but once you became mayor, you didn't have the executive authority to implement it – unlike a prime minister or a premier, you had no lever. Should mayors have more power?

The only way you could do that is if you did have recall legislation. Because if a mayor has veto power or something, you have to be very, very careful with that. That is a privilege that you're given.
I think there should be something in the Municipal Act that gives you the power to do certain things. But it is a double-edged sword. You have to be really careful. Councils are all same – you get 12 people at the table, it's like having 12 cooks in the kitchen. And that's what makes it interesting, right?

Isn't Sudbury city council a little different?

With ward systems, you're going to get that. They're elected to represent their people. Unfortunately, the big picture gets (foggy) and it becomes about the fight. Other cities have gone to the councillors at large, or the hybrid system. That has stopped some of the controversies. They've said they're going to stop setting themselves up and shooting themselves in the foot anymore.

Why would 12 incumbents agree to changing the system, when the change would make it hard to get re-elected?

Exactly – and that's the thing. It's hard to change that. It's something that will take at least eight years, if not 12. And you have to have the will.

With so much turnover expected on the next city council (at least three, maybe six new faces) what should people be looking for in their representative, in your opinion?

I think they should look for whomever is running on a platform that is open and transparent, that will move the city forward. I can't really give specifics, because that would be my platform and I'm not running! (laughs). But returning the ombudsman is one thing that resonates with me.

With these polls results – and they're certainly very favourable – why did you decide not to run?

It's a personal decision. It's personal commitments right now. That (the poll results) didn't sway me.

And, with these numbers especially, do you have any regrets about not being more receptive to the idea of running for the Liberal nomination (in the June 12 election)?

No. None at all. I always say certain things are not meant to be, but other things are there. There's always opportunities, and who knows what's going to happen?

Should we expect to hear about a new role for you in the coming days or weeks?

I have no idea, quite frankly. I'm going to spend some time with my family. My summer is booked – actually, I'm booked until Dec. 1. I am still the mayor.

Do you see yourself getting back into politics?

You never know. You never know what's going happen. We'll see how things go. I really enjoyed it. It was an honour. But right now, I need to do something else.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

Read more >